The APQC Blog

Chris Taylor explains why BPM is like a marriage

APQC's Executive Director, Ron Webb talked to Chris Taylor, Marketing Director at TIBCO Software, and writer for SucessfulWorkplace.com. They discuss why organizations struggle implementing BPM, how the problems are a lot like the old relationship book ‘Men are From Mars and Women are from Venus’, and what the solutions are.

You can follow Chris Taylor on Twitter at @FindChrisTaylor.

Ron Webb: Thanks for joining us today, Chris. In your work, you encounter many organizations that are doing things well, but I’ll bet you also encounter organizations that are having issues implementing process management initiatives of various scales and degrees. Based on your experience, what are the biggest barriers to success you have seen for organizations as they bring people, process, and technology together to drive real performance increases within their organizations?

Chris Taylor: One of the biggest challenges is getting people aligned, often people from very different background. You end up with a Mars and Venus problem where the IT view of business process is very different from the business owner's. What one considers kicking off or finishing a project isn't the same as the others. What an IT person sees in process is data, where a business person will see the outcome of activities. Those are very different approaches to reconcile.

Ron Webb: OK, so let’s say you are on a team within in an organization and you think you might be in the “Mars and Venus” dynamic. What are the indicators or symptoms of this dynamic? How might they recognize they are in this cycle?

Chris Taylor: One of the first signs of a problem is typically missed deadlines on either side. The business may be late in getting information to IT because they don't see the challenges that raises, and likewise, the IT group may not understand the dependence the business has on the things they do.

Ron Webb: When they realize they are in the middle of this dynamic, how do they work themselves out of it? What have you seen organizations successfully use to move back to a positive dynamic?

Chris Taylor: One thing I've seen used with great results is the War Room concept. This puts the various factions in the same physical room throughout either the entire project or during key stages. It gets very hard to miss a delivery or point a finger when the people involved are on the same team. Bring in lunch…stuff them with pizza…whatever it takes to get them working together, day in, day out.

Ron Webb:  Now let’s discuss what someone can do to avoid this dynamic altogether? How do they avoid this craziness altogether?

Chris Taylor: One way to avoid the cycle is to make sure there's great stakeholder buy-in to what needs to be done. That often means getting the senior people to agree with the outcome, which allows them to manage the details down through their respective ranks. Another way is to use only a collaboration tool to communicate on the project, forcing people away from the clunkiness and politics of email. More than anything, though, there needs to be a single manager that runs the project and reports status back to the same senior execs. Lacking that, you'll quickly break into Mars versus Venus.

Ron Webb: A single point of ownership for the project is an interesting point. How would you describe this person? We are talking about the challenges of bringing the “IT” and “Business” worlds together, so where would this project manager come from? Would they be one of the mythical project managers that can span both worlds?

Chris Taylor: That's a great question. I believe the world is desperately short of the kind of people who can truly understand both the business and technical sides of BPM. That's where it becomes incredibly important to find and cultivate entrepreneurial skills in your project management staff. With an entrepreneurial spirit, a manager can be an organizing and executing force without having to know every detail. On the whole, we don't reward that kind of skills that are found in the small startup that are enormously helpful in big organizations.

Some of the best project execution people I know aren't wizards with MS Project, but instead are able to walk the hallways, work the phones, and get to the details of what needs to get done very quickly, even if they don't know it intimately. That's not a corporate skill, but an entrepreneurial skill instead.

Want to learn more about process improvement and management? Join APQC for its 2013 Process Conference held October 21-25 at The Houstonian Hotel.